Free Lulavim for Travelers to Israel, But Don’t Try to Bring Your Own

Jewish men examine citrons, known as an etrog, for imperfections, at the 'four-species' market in Jerusalem on September 27, 2015. The citron is one of the four species used during rituals in the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot commemorates the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the desert and a decorated hut or tabernacle is erected outside religious households as a sign of temporary shelter. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ????? ??? ???? ????? ?????? ??? ???????
The Arba’as Haminim market in Machaneh Yehudah. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Travelers from abroad who visit Israel for Sukkos often find that they are detained before they are allowed into the country – and are relieved of the lulavim, hadassim and aravos of their set of arba’as haminim, which cannot be imported into Israel because of agricultural regulations. To help travelers out, the Agriculture Ministry will replace at no charge grown-in-Israel substitutes.

Travelers are allowed to bring in their personal esrogim, but the rest of the minim are banned, out of fear that they will carry various pests or bacteria that could contaminate the Israeli ecosystem. The ban on the minim is part of the general ban on importing fruits and vegetables, which are restricted for the same reason.

Although esrogim are allowed, it’s one per traveler; to prevent unfair trade in the esrog market. Last year, officials seized 650 esrogim that travelers were trying to smuggle in. Esrogim that are brought in must be presented for inspection, which takes place at the airport. During the pre-Sukkos period, extra inspectors are on patrol, many of them with dogs trained to detect the smell of fresh fruits, vegetables, and plants. According to the Ministry, an attempt to smuggle into Israel unauthorized arba’as haminim is a crime, punishable by fines and even jail time.

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